Supreme Court Brief Contends Constitution Does Not Provide Executive Privilege for Former Presidents; Elevates the Perspective of State and Local Leaders Showing How Access to Trump Administration Documents is Critical to Preventing Another Insurrection
Washington, D.C. — On Tuesday, a bipartisan coalition of former federal, state, and local officials, along with the States United Democracy Center and Perry Guha LLP, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the United States Supreme Court opposing former President Donald Trump’s attempt to block the release of documents about the January 6 insurrection. The House of Representatives’ Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol (the Select Committee) requested the records from the National Archives as part of its ongoing investigation into the violent attack on the Capitol during the Joint Session of Congress to certify the electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election. In October, Trump filed a lawsuit to block the release of the records, citing executive privilege. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Trump’s request for an injunction, and a panel for the Circuit Court upheld that ruling. Trump has asked the Supreme Court to stop the National Archives from turning over the documents to the Select Committee.
Capturing the perspective of former federal officials and state and local leaders, including those who have overseen or administered elections, the brief argues that Judge Chutkan’s ruling should stand because:
- The sitting president and Congress agree that turning over the records is important to our democracy. Former federal, state, and local officials know that, in our democratic system, former officeholders simply have no authority to invoke their old powers in defiance of the incumbents.
- Congress needs the documents so that it can better understand the planning and implementation of the January 6 attack. That understanding is critical because state and local officials are relying on Congress to enact laws protecting our democracy against future insurgencies.
Former federal, state, and local officials who are members of the States United bipartisan advisory board signed the brief. The list of signatories includes: Gregory A. Brower, Steve Bullock, Tom Coleman, Jack Conway, Frankie Sue Del Papa, Norman Eisen, John J. Farmer, Jr., Trey Grayson, Jim Hood, Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, Jahna Lindemuth, Patricia Madrid, Tom Rath, Sarah R. Saldaña, Michael Steele, Christine Todd Whitman, Joyce Vance, and William F. Weld (bios below). A similar bipartisan coalition filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Circuit Court opposing Trump’s efforts to block the release of documents.
“The January 6 assault on our democracy disrupted the culmination of extraordinary work by state and local officials, and in the year since, the attack on administration of free and fair elections has continued,” said former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center. “In order to safeguard our electoral process and prevent another insurrection, we need to get to the truth. We urge the Supreme Court to act immediately to uphold the lower Courts’ decisions. The future of our country is at stake.”
“This case is not complicated — former presidents do not hold the same power as the current president. The Supreme Court should move quickly to allow the Select Committee to do its job and get to the bottom of the January 6 attack,” said Ambassador Norm Eisen, Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center and former White House Ethics Czar. “In order for our system of free and fair elections to remain intact, we need Congress to have the information and tools necessary to prevent another insurrection — and that includes access to these documents.”
“The Constitution was written to make sure the United States would never become a monarchy, and it gave no powers or privileges to former presidents,” said Danya Perry, founding partner at Perry Guha LLP and a former federal prosecutor. “The Courts cannot allow Trump to create a dangerous precedent that may undo the work of the Framers who understood the need for our country to have a safe, smooth, and complete transfer of power. It is time the Courts put an end to Trump’s game and create a path forward for accountability and new laws preventing anything like January 6 from happening again.”
Biographies for signatories below.
Gregory A. Brower served as Assistant Director and Deputy General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2016 to 2018; U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada from 2008 to 2009; and Inspector General of the U.S. Government Publishing Office from 2004 to 2006.
Steve Bullock served as Attorney General of Montana from 2009 to 2013; Governor of Montana from 2013 to 2021; and Chair of the National Governors Association from 2018 to 2019. He worked as an attorney in Montana’s Secretary of State’s office and Attorney General’s office and in private practice before assuming either office.
Tom Coleman is a former eight-term member of Congress from Missouri. Prior to his congressional service he was an Assistant Attorney General of Missouri and twice elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and as an adjunct professor at American University. He is past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society and is Trustee Emeritus of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.
Jack Conway is the former two-term Attorney General of Kentucky from 2008 to 2016, who served on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General, as Co-Chair of Consumer Protection for that same organization, and as Chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association. He is a trial attorney and current partner at Dolt Thompson Shepherd & Conway; a former board member of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage; and spent six years as legal counsel to former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton.
Frankie Sue Del Papa served as Secretary of State of Nevada from 1987 to 1991 and as Attorney General of Nevada from 1991 to 2003. She also served as an elected member of the Board of Regents for the Nevada System of Higher Education.
John J. Farmer, Jr. has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney, New Jersey Attorney General, Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, Dean of Rutgers Law School, and now serves as Director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. He has also served on New Jersey’s Executive Commission on Ethical Standards, Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, and the State Commission of Investigations.
Trey Grayson is an attorney with the law firm Frost Brown Todd and the former Kentucky Secretary of State from 2004 to 2011. During that time, he served as President of the National Association of Secretaries of State and Chair of the Republican Association of Secretaries of State. He also served as the Director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics from 2011-2014.
Jim Hood served as the District Attorney for the Third Judicial District in North Mississippi from 1996-2004; as President of the National Association of Attorneys General from 2014 to 2015; and as Attorney General of Mississippi from 2004 to 2020.
Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is a global expert on democracies facing violence, polarization, poor governance, and other forms of democratic decline. She advises the U.S. government and other allied nations, is a board member of Freedom House, and serves on the National Task Force on Election Crises.
Jahna Lindemuth served as Attorney General for the state of Alaska from 2016 to 2018, during which time she served on the National Association of Attorneys General executive board and the Conference of Western States Attorneys General executive board. Before serving as Attorney General, General Lindemuth was in private practice for 18 years at an international law firm, representing clients in complex commercial disputes and serving as the Anchorage office’s managing partner for eight years. She has returned to private practice at Cashion Gilmore & Lindemuth.
Patricia Madrid served two terms as Attorney General of New Mexico, from 1999 to 2007. She has also served as Chairperson of the Conference of Western Attorneys General and as Chair of the Board of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Tom Rath served as Assistant Attorney General of New Hampshire from 1972 to 1976; as Deputy Attorney General of New Hampshire from 1976 to 1978; as Attorney General of New Hampshire from 1978 to 1980; as Director of the Legal Services Corporation under President George W. Bush; and as senior national advisor to the presidential campaigns of Howard Baker, Robert Dole, Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. He has been a delegate to nine Republican National Conventions and was the Republican Party National Committeeman for New Hampshire for seven years.
Sarah R. Saldaña served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas) from 2011 to 2014 and was appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee during her tenure. Since 2004, she had served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the same office, both as a line prosecutor, including service as the District’s Election Officer, and as Deputy Criminal Chief of the Major Fraud and Public Corruption unit. Most recently, she served as Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2014 to 2017.
Michael Steele is the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. Steele made history as the first African American elected to statewide office. During his tenure, Steele prioritized strengthening education for disadvantaged students and reforming the state’s Minority Business Enterprise program to expand economic development. Following his time in office, Steele was chosen as the first African American chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). He is currently a political analyst for MSNBC and a Senior Fellow at Brown University Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs.
Christine Todd Whitman is the Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center and President of The Whitman Strategy Group. Previously, she served as the Governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001, and as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003.
Joyce Vance is the former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and the first female U.S. Attorney nominated by President Barack Obama. Before becoming U.S. Attorney, Vance served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Birmingham for 18 years. She spent ten years as a criminal prosecutor, before moving to the Appellate Division in 2002. She became the Chief of that Division in 2005. In 2017, Vance joined the University of Alabama School of Law as a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in Law.
William F. Weld served as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts from 1981 to 1986; as the Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division from 1986 to 1988; and as Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 until 1997.
About the States United Democracy Center
The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org.